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April 2021 Examinations Summary

Congratulations to all our candidates who passed examinations in the April 2021 session. We are delighted to see candidates continuing to excel as we move to a digital-first approach to IFoA examinations.

As we complete our April 2021 examination cycle, we would like to share an overview of this session and how your feedback will enable us to further improve our candidate experience in the future.

We were pleased to introduce several improvements for the April exams based on your feedback from the September 2020 session.  Candidates wanted a full, practical guide to sitting IFoA exams in a single location, so we introduced the IFoA Examinations Handbook, which has been well received. Candidates have also wanted more direct communication from the IFoA in the lead up to the April session, so we created examination information emails, which were also well received.

This session saw nearly 11,800 candidates sitting 15,029 examinations. Candidates continued to have a positive experience with our online exam platform. Across all our examinations, only 16 candidates contacted the IFoA as they are unable to download their exam paper. 257 candidates were permitted to email their scripts to the IFoA as they could not upload their paper. Almost all of our candidates were able to test the exam platform ahead of the exam session; candidates must continue to do so in the future to ensure they can access the platform on the day of the exam.

The two-factor authentication continues to work well for candidates and to protect the integrity of the IFoA's exams. However, the IFoA is aware that in certain regions in China, Thailand, India, New Zealand and Zimbabwe, issues were identified and the two-factor authentication was removed for those candidates affected. We are working with our platform provider to determine what can be done to improve this issue for future sessions.

Candidate feedback

Feedback about your experience during our April examination session has been central to improving how we will deliver our online examinations in September 2021 and into 2022.

Over 4400 students completed our April post-examination survey. We want to thank everyone who took the time to complete this survey and those who fed back through the Student Consultative Forum (SCF) and Global Student Consultative Forums (GSCF).

Survey results

We are pleased to note that candidates continued to report an overwhelming positive experience with our online exam platform during the April examination session. The vast majority experienced no issues with platform testing before the exams, alongside a smooth experience downloading and uploading scripts. In addition, our two-factor text authentication systems continued to be successful, though, in some regional regions, a small number of candidates reported not receive their authentication message.

Headline figures from respondents for the April 2021 post-examination survey include:

Online Exam Platform

  • 99% of candidates reportable to test the platform.
  • 98% of candidates found the two-factor authentication easy to use
  • 98% reported the online platform was easy to use.
  • 98% found no issues in downloading their exam paper.
  • 95% were able to upload their paper without issue.
  • 99% of candidates received confirmation their paper was uploaded.

IFoA Communication

  • 94% of candidates understood the arrangements for the April exam sitting
  • 90% of candidates felt the IFoA kept them informed of developments leading up to the exam session.
  • 86% of candidates reported the new ‘Exam Handbook’ was useful to their exam preparation.
  • 85% of candidates felt our information was presented clearly on the website.
  • 91% of candidates felt we provided all the information required for the exams via email ahead of the exam session.
  • 74% of candidates felt the plagiarism and referencing guide easy to understand.

Key themes from student feedback

Previewing the exam script before submissions

Though the vast majority of candidates successfully uploaded their exam script, many candidates have requested to see a 'preview' of their script before submission. We have taken this feedback on board and has worked with the platform provider to have this functionality ready for the September 2021 sitting.

Time to download the paper

Candidates have provided feedback that internet speeds vary during the exam download period. Some candidates report it taking a few minutes for their paper to download, reducing the time to complete the exam paper. Other candidates like to print their exam paper as they find it more accessible during the exam.

Considering this feedback, from September 2021, we are adding 5 minutes onto each exam paper, allowing candidates this extra time to download or print, if required, their exam paper.

CS2A Feedback

The first major theme of feedback from the exam candidates was concerning CS2A. Many candidates had expected a Multiple Choice Question (MCQ) element to be part of the exam paper, as was the format in September 2020. It is important to note that the IFoA did not state that this would be the format of CS2A for future exams. The MCQ element was added to the CS2A as part of the adaption of the 2020 papers that were written for an exam centre format. We currently state the assessment format of the paper in the Syllabus documents for that year which can be found on our website. However, we recognise why candidates would have expected an element of MCQ within their exams, as many students prepare using the online past-paper available of the CS2A exam which contained MCQ questions. Taking this feedback on board, we will communicate to candidates in advance of any significant changes to the assessment format stated in the syllabus documents.

Plagiarism and referencing guidance

Candidates reported concerns around the timing of the plagiarism and referencing guidance leading up to the April 2021 exams. We recognise the timings of this email so close to the exam sitting were less than ideal and apologised for any anxiety caused. In the weeks leading up to the exam session, several candidates had requested further details on referencing or using citations within their paper. A decision was made that it would be fair that this guidance is provided for all candidates.

It is important to note that the vast majority of candidates do not need to use referencing or citation within their paper. We expect candidates to answer the questions in their own words. The use of external source material should be used to help support a candidate’s answer, instead of being used as a significant part of their answer. In August, we will be providing candidates additional information about how the IFoA investigates plagiarism.

Writing exams in an online format

Candidates have continued to provide the IFoA feedback on how they are finding completing the exams in an online format. The feedback is vital in helping to understand how students are adapting their exam preparation technique and how candidates find the exam papers.  Concerns have been raised regarding the speed of typing, answering numerical questions in word, and completing their exam paper within the time allocated. We are pleased to announce we are running another exam preparing techniques webinar in August. We will also publish guidance to candidates about how the IFoA are now writing exam papers for the exams online and how students should be adapting their revision approach.   

We are currently examination handbook for the September examinations which we will published later in August. 

How the IFoA has taken your feedback on board for September 2021

We value the feedback we have received from candidates.

Candidates would like to preview their script ahead of submitting, to ensure they have uploaded the correct file.

We have taken this feedback on board and has worked with our platform provider to develop this functionality for future sessions. This new feature will allow you to preview the script for the September exams, check it is the right one, or replace it with the correct one before you finally submit. 

Candidates have requested a 'countdown' clock be added to the IFoA exam platform.

Candidates for several sessions have requested a 'countdown' clock on the IFoA exam platform. Creating a countdown clock tailored to various online cohorts, adaptable to different time zones, and accommodating candidates with access arrangements is ahighly complex task. The setup and design of our online platform means the development of a countdown  would need a major platform overhaul to be implemented. Due to the time consuming and complex nature of this project we have chosen to prioritise key improvements identified  from candidate feedback, including: confirmation of submission, previewing exam scripts and testing functionality.. Candidates may use a watch or a 'countdown timer' on their computer, tablet or smartphone if they believe that is beneficial to their exam preparation.

Candidates would like the IFoA to run another webinar on examination preparation techniques.

We will be running another examination preparation webinar on Monday August 23. Find out how to sign up for the webinar.

Candidates have asked that if any updates happen after the exam handbook for September is published, can the handbook be the location where the updates are stated instead of detailed in an email.

We hope that there will be no further changes after the September 21 Exam handbook is published. However, we have taken your feedback on board and, in future, will ensure updates take place in the Exam handbook, and we will direct candidates, via email, towards where these changes are.

Can the IFoA provide detail to candidates for which email addresses they will receive correspondence on regarding exams? This allows candidates to add the email addresses to the 'safe senders' list and stop emails from being caught in Spam or Junk filters.

We will now detail which email addresses candidates will receive correspondence from in the Examination Handbook.

Can the plagiarism and referencing guidance be placed in the exam handbook?

We are working to include the practical plagiarism and reference guidance into the exam handbook for September 2021.

Can the IFoA add the pass mark on individual exam result letters?

We publish the pass mark for the exam paper in the examiner's report, which is published shortly after the results. We recognise, however, that candidates who aren't successful in passing the paper will want to know as soon as possible how far from the pass mark they were. We have taken this feedback on board and will explore if we can add the pass mark to the results letters or publish what each pass mark is on the website on the day of results.

You can also read the full results from our April post-examination survey and notes from our most recent UK & Ireland SCF and Global Student Forum meetings (GSCF).